2018 Theater

The first week of the new year is full of goals, hopes, and eating leftover holiday sweets. Luckily, we have plenty of reading material to accompany those cookies because everyone is busy laying out their plans and schedules for 2018. I’ve been reading through upcoming shows coming to Broadway and beyond this year, and want to share some of the ones I’m most excited about.

I’m starting with the Great White Way, of course, and there are few shows this year that have generated as much buzz as the Frozen musical. This isn’t the first Disney animated feature to be turned into a Broadway musical—Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast spring to mind as immediate (and successful!) examples. Like those productions, the adaptation uses the movie’s soundtrack as a starting point for a full musical, expanding both the music and the plot to fit a longer show. Previews begin on February 22 and Frozen will open in March. Read more here.

When I said no show has as much buzz as Frozen, perhaps I meant besides Mean Girls, the inevitable musical adaptation of the wildly popular 2004 movie of the same name. (Think about Legally Blonde and Bring It On and try to tell me a Mean Girls musical wasn’t inevitable.) Tina Fey, who wrote the original movie (which includes several of the most widely quoted lines of all time), wrote the book; her husband Jeff Richmond composed the score. Lyricist Nell Benjamin, who also worked on Legally Blonde: The Musical (see??), rounds out the writing team. Previews begin on March 12 and opening night is April 8. Read more here.

While I’m primarily a musicals fan, I’ve been more and more interested in straight plays since I started directing. Even if I wasn’t, it would be a crime to leave Angels in America off of this list. This masterpiece first premiered 25 years ago, and now a much-lauded revival is being brought from London to Broadway this spring. The production is led by Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield and directed by Marianne Elliott, the Tony award winning director of War Horse and The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time. Previews begin on February 23 and the limited-run show will play through on June 30. Read more here.

Speaking of groundbreaking gay plays, The Boys in the Band is heading to Broadway (forty years after its unexpected smash Off-Broadway success) for a limited engagement. The all-star cast is composed of Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, and Matt Bomer, all of whom have achieved success on movies or television in addition to their theater performances (with the exception of Bomer, who will be making his Broadway debut). All four have also previously worked with one of the show’s producers, Ryan Murphy, on his TV series. Previews begin on April 30 and the limited-run show will play through August 12. Read more here.

While these Broadway performances captured my attention in part for their well-known subject material and famous cast members, the shows coming up Off-Broadway are interesting for all the ways they color outside the lines. Relevance, a play about feminism, generations, and communication in the world of social media, tells the story of the viral clash between a veteran feminist and an emerging writer and cultural critic. It feels fresh and incredibly, well, relevant—fiery divisions in the feminist movement and the gasoline of social media is a show we’ve seen played out before. Relevance will be Off-Broadway from February 1 to March 11. Read more here.

Meanwhile, in the category of “shows that will definitely make me cry,” Miss You Like Hell is coming to the Public Theater. Written by the Pulitzer Prize winning Quiara Alegría Hudes (beloved to me for writing the book for In The Heights) and singer/songwriter Erin McKeown, the show is the story of a 16-year-old undocumented immigrant and her estranged mother. They come back into each other’s lives and start a road trip that explores the lines between states, countries, and people. Miss You Like Hell will be Off-Broadway from March 20 to May 6. Read more here.

To round out this excellent roster is Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World, directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus. This one-woman play is based on Ensler’s memoir about suffering from a life-threatening illness while working with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ensler is best known for her monumental hit The Vagina Monologues; In the Body of the World is just the latest installment in her career focusing on women and bodies. Previews begin on January 6 and the show opens on February 6. Read more here.

This is far from Diane Paulus’s only show this season, however; the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater is staying busy. Jagged Little Pill, an original musical directed by Paulus and based on Alanis Morissette’s iconic album, is premiering at the ART in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The show is running from May 5 to June 30. Read more here.

There are countless other theater events going on in New York and Boston and London and Smalltown, Indiana, and so it’s also best to keep updated on the local theater scene, wherever that is for you. It’s also exciting to remember that theater is becoming more accessible every year, from movie musical adaptations like the live action Aladdin or the upcoming roster of live televised musicals. Now will they just show us the recording of Hamilton they made? Please?